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Blair Looney, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau of Central California.

Dear Action Line:  Since the beginning of this year, the number of data breaches for large businesses seems to have increased and become more severe. I am concerned that my personal information may fall into the hands of a scammer. What can I do to better safeguard my personal information?

Dear reader:  Identity theft is a serious crime and is more common than anyone cares to admit. It can destroy your credit history, finances and reputation and cost you time and money. There are four main ways to protect your personal information and reduce your risk of identity theft:

* Before you share information at your workplace, a business or a doctor's office, ask why they need it and how they will safeguard it.

* Store your financial documents and records in a safe place at home, and dispose of your personal information securely. Shred receipts, credit offers, credit applications, insurance forms, physician statements, checks, bank statements, expired charge cards and similar documents.

* Ask questions before deciding to share your personal information.

* Maintain appropriate security on your computers and other electronic devices. Before it comes time to dispose of your computer, get rid of all the information it stores by using a wipe utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive.

To help you dispose of your personal information securely, your BBB, Golden 1 Credit Union and Discount Shred holds 11 "Secure your ID Day" events per year. To view an upcoming schedule of events near you, visit

For more information on "Secure your ID Day" events, contact Gaby at or call 800-675-8118 ext. 331.

-- Blair Looney is president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Central California. Send your consumer concerns, questions and problems to Action Line at the Better Business Bureau, 1601 H St., Suite 101, Bakersfield, CA 93301 or